Hwy. 27 remains closed through Harriman after Thursday's fire

harriman fire 5 pm

Officials closed a major highway through downtown Harriman Friday after a fire gutted a historical building in the small town Thursday.

Roane County dispatch confirmed Highway 27 and Main Street are closed Friday because of Thursday's fire at the Miller and Brewer Building.

The fire broke out in the unoccupied building about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, and firefighters battled the blaze for hours in below-freezing temperatures. As the fire continued into mid-afternoon, the flames appeared to grow stronger. At 5:45 p.m., as a 10News camera looked on, the walls collapsed on themselves.

To Carol Farmer, it was "the J.C. Penney of the small town."

"That was my first job when I was 16 years old. Miller and Brewer was my first job," said Farmer, who retrieved an old brick from the site.

Those memories are now up in smoke.

Firefighters don't know what started the blaze. Working in sub-freezing temperatures, they remained on the scene after nightfall, watchful of flareups and hotspots.

Smoke from the fire could be seen for miles. It had been the largest structure in downtown Harriman, authorities said.

"It's sad to see an old building like that go," Harriman Mayor Chris Mason told 10News on the scene.

Fire authorities said North Roane Street and part of Crescent Street where the building was located will be closed until Friday afternoon.

For about two hours before the collapse, tall flames had blazed their way through the three-story structure. Power had been cut off in the area as a precaution, according to authorities.

Ice was as much a challenge as the fire. With the weather so cold, ice quickly former on the street. Salt was thrown down to offest that. And icicles formed on utility lines around the building, adding an eerie element to the smoky scene.

One fire official had icicles on his glasses.

Mason said authorities would check to see that the fire didn't spread to a neighboring building. Firefighters were expected to remain on the scene throughout the night.

Firefighters from several departments were on the scene and numerous other agencies responded to assist.

"It's been vacant for about 15 years," Mason told 10News. "It's a place where we used to all come and go shopping when we were all young.

Authorities said the building had been vacant for some time.

It served as a department store for several decades and was converted in the 1990s into apartments, according to authorities.

No injuries were reported.

A recovery center was set up with portable heaters so firefighters could warm up as they worked the blaze.

Highway 27 in downtown Harriman, Main Street and several other nearby roads were shut down for emergency traffic.


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